I’m super-excited to see the newly enhanced Titanic 3-D this week. I first saw Titanic shortly after the birth of my third child, ie painfully past the viewer expiration date. (Not that I’ve ever let that stop me from enjoying a movie, mind you.) And, yes, I’m well aware: clunker script, joke accents, cartoonish acting…lalala-I’m-not-listening-to-you! I couldn’t even find a friend to go with me when it first came out; everyone had been predicting forever that it was going to be a bloated catastrophe the likes of which no one had seen since Ishtar (or even Heaven’s Gate)! My indulgent husband probably would have gone with me but even in my breastfeeding fog, I had the good sense not to waste our precious ‘date night’ on this train wreck. And then… surprise! Here’s a fun recap for those who weren’t pushing a double stroller back in 1997:
The movie was the joke of the industry for months before it was released. But then … it simply became the only movie on earth that mattered… and stayed the No. 1 movie in the country for a staggering 15 consecutive weeks…It wouldn’t drop out of the top 10 until the middle of June. The equivalent of this now would be Mission: Impossible 4, which comes out on DVD in two weeks, still being the No. 1 movie in the country this weekend, and remaining in that spot even when all the big summer movies come out. Titanic, quite simply, was a revelation.
And it was a revelation, in clear and overwhelming terms, because of teenage girls. No one could have imagined that when the film was being made; Cameron had a reputation for strong female roles (Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens), but this was a big muscular tentpole special-effects movie from the guy who made his career alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cameron knew what he was doing, though: He was going after the teenage girl all along. Leonardo DiCaprio, thinner back then but already weird, battled Cameron on set because he wanted to give Jack some sort of defect, a limp, something like that, but Cameron knew better, telling him: “I’m not going to make this guy brooding and neurotic. I’m not going to give him a tic and a limp and all the things you want. This is your movie star performance.”
For all its obvious, lunkheaded faults, I still unapologetically love Titanic, for reasons similar to why those teenage girls loved it: It is profoundly, almost embarrassingly sincere. There is no winking in Titanic, no postmodern touches, no self-referential asides. It is the opposite of cynical.
The teenage girl in me (still!) just loves that. I get enough “cynical” in real life.